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A Pico Projector That Fits in Your Pocket – Review Geek



Rating:
5/10
?

  • 1 – Absolutely hot rubbish
  • 2 – Black lukewarm rubbish
  • 3 – Strongly wrong design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not the best in class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute design Nirvana

Price: $ 150

Projector with lens cover folded down.
Viewsonic

Want a big screen TV but don’t have the room or budget for one? Viewsonics M1 Mini is a small pico projector that literally fits in your pocket and can project a large image into a dark room. It lacks some of the big brother’s features – the M1 + – but at $ 150 it’s also less than half the price.

Here’s what we like

  • Tiny – fits in your pocket
  • Comes with three different color tops
  • Good sound
  • Reasonable

And what we do not do

  • The resolution is only 854 x 480
  • Must be used in a dark room
  • No wall charger / power supply included
  • No stand mounting
  • The battery is good for 2.5 hours max

Wait! Is there a projector in your pocket?

Pico projectors – small portable video projectors – were popular about a decade ago. Then they sort of disappeared for a while, and are now experiencing a renaissance. The Viewsonic M1 Mini, the little brother of the M1 + we reviewed recently, is the latest addition to the Viewsonic video projector family.

In some ways, the M1 Mini is similar to the larger and lighter M1 +, but it’s not just a shrunken version of the more expensive pico projector. For less money, you get fewer features and less flexibility. But for many, it will not be a breach of contract.

When Viewsonic called the projector, it hit the nail on the head. The M1 Mini is truly a very compact device that measures just four inches and one inch high. The top of the projector has a pop-up color panel that allows you to replace the cricket panel that the projector has without packaging with a gray or yellow that comes in the box. I do not know exactly why they did this, it seems like putting lipstick on a pig (with an apology to Miss Piggy). Other thanks look nice, they seem a bit pointless, as they do nothing more than change the color of the top of the projector.

Inside the case, there is a 50-lumen LED light source, a battery that is good for a maximum of 2.5 hours of playing time and a very nice 2 W JBL speaker. You will not blow up the neighbors if you hold an outdoor movie night, but in an interior room it sounds good.

A fold-down lens cover also doubles as a stand for the projector, and as with the big brother, it can be lifted upwards to provide a practical carrying handle. Unfortunately, the bottom of the projector lacks the tripod mount that the M1 + offers, a feature that is very much missed. Using a tripod, you can easily position the projector at a 90-degree angle to the projection surface. With the M1 Mini, you need to find a way to raise the projector so that the image does not appear at floor level or becomes unreasonably distorted. The vertical keystone function is fine, but it still will not make up for an image that is too distorted due to the angle between the projector and the image surface.

Here a port, there a port

With the M1 Mini so compact, there is not much room for connectors or controls. The front of the projector contains only the lens – the manual focus wheel is accessible from the right side of the projector (front view). You need to focus on the image, depending on how far the M1 Mini is from the surface you are projecting on. The projector has automatic vertical keystone correction, which is nice, since there will be times when you will not be able to place the projector exactly perpendicular to the surface.

Image showing USB ports
The right side contains micro USB and USB-A ports.

The rear panel includes a small slider to turn the projector on and off. Unlike the M1 +, the stand does not control the power up or down, so be careful to remember to turn off the projector when you have finished watching, otherwise the stand may block the unit’s cooling valve.

The doors are divided between the left and right side panel. Seen from the front, the right side panel contains two ports. Both are USB ports, where one is a micro-USB and the other a USB port. You can load video from one of or from the HDMI port on the left panel. The micro USB port also acts as an input port, and Viewsonic provides a USB-to-micro cable. However, it does not provide power to the wall. You must state this on your own. You can load video from the Type A USB port while charging the projector using the micro-USB port, but using the micro-USB port for video better means you have a charged battery because it cannot be used to both charging and video input simultaneously.

Picture showing HDMI input on the left side of the projector.
The left side has an HDMI input.

For my testing, I used video from a variety of sources, including a flash drive, an Amazon Fire TV Stick, a USB DVD player, and a laptop, with no trouble playing videos from any of these sources. Another test involved me connecting the M1 Mini to a HDMI video output for laptop and projecting the screen to the laptop. Again, no problem other than the brightness of the image.

As with other pico projectors I have tested, I projected the image from approx. 8 meters from a large piece of white foam board, and also tested projecting against a wall-painted light blue. The difference in the brightness of the image was immediately noticeable, with the image projected on the wall noticeably weaker, but still acceptable in a completely dark room. At eight feet, the picture was about as big as you would get on a 32-inch TV.

Not too bright

The M1 Mini can actually project an image as large as 100 inches. Keep in mind, however, that the larger the image you project, the less bright the image will appear. You can blame the physics of Inverse Square Law for that. Also contributing to the lack of brightness is light output. Viewsonic estimates this at 120 lumens, but in ANSI measurements the production is a scant 50 lumens. It’s just not very bright, and if you project against a dark surface, the image is almost unrecognizable.

This brings up two other points to consider. The first is mentioned above – even a moderate amount of light in the room will wash out the image completely. The second concern is the surface you are projecting on. While white, like a white wall or a sheet, is preferable for the best image, I got an acceptable image that projected on a light blue wall without a noticeable distortion of the colors in the projected material. The limited optical resolution of only 854 × 480 also reduces the image sharpness and clarity of higher resolution source material.

Not quite perfect

Man lying on pillow with a small projector next to him on the floor
Viewsonic

I like the M1 Mini, but there are a number of places where it does not come to the M1 +. The most noticeable of these is the brightness of the image and the resolution.

I’m also not very happy with the short battery life of 2.5 hours, especially with many movies now approaching or exceeding that length. If you are thinking of projecting Avengers: Endgame, you should have a battery pack or an electrical outlet available, which defeats the whole purpose of having a projector with so much portability. Even with a power outlet nearby, you will need a wart, as Viewsonic does not include a power supply with the projector.

The source of your video material is also a concern, especially if you are looking outside. Unless you want to run an AC extension cord for a laptop or Fire TV Stick / Roku, you will probably be limited to video on a flash drive or a battery-powered device, such as a phone or tablet using an adapter, between the device and the projector.

Finally, I really miss the rack mounting that the larger and more powerful M1 + has. The M1 Mini’s fold-down lens cover / stand gives you almost no flexibility in being able to mount the M1Mini at a height of 90 degrees to the surface on which you project the image. This is offset somewhat by the projector’s automatic vertical keystone correction, but there is just as much the correction can do to correct a large horizontal angular deviation between the projector and the viewing surface.

All this does not mean that the M1 Mini is not worth considering. But think carefully about what, where and how it would have been used. It is a cute and not too expensive projector, but for many it will make more sense to spend more money and get more flexibility and ease of use.

Here’s what we like

  • Tiny – fits in your pocket
  • Comes with three different color tops
  • Good sound
  • Reasonable

And what we do not do

  • The resolution is only 854 x 480
  • Must be used in a dark room
  • No wall charger / power supply included
  • No stand mounting
  • The battery is good for 2.5 hours max




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